I have decided to share some of my columns that have appeared in The Writers’ Community of Durham Region newsletter, “Word Weaver,” over the years. Here is the inaugural column from the January-February 2009 issue. Hope you find it interesting!
The Writing Fairy® Eat My Dust Column
I never went to my high school prom. Wasn’t asked. I stayed home and daydreamed about what colour my dress might have been if some boy had mustered up the courage to ask a smart fat girl to the dance. Maybe a soft blue or mauve, I thought, with my long hair twisted into an up-do adorned with a sprig of baby’s breath. I closed my eyes and envisioned what it would be like to stand in the balloon- and tissue flower-embellished gymnasium with my arm through my date’s. Strobe lights flashed bursts of excitement that teased hormones with multi-coloured promises of everlasting romance. But that reality wasn’t to be for me.
I now wonder why I didn’t just crash the prom, drink spiked punch effervescing with too much ginger ale, and stand in the middle of the floor doing the watusi all by myself to The Mamas and The Papas singing “California Dreamin’.” But it was 1969, and nice girls didn’t do things like that. Plus, by the time I was in my teens, I was used to rejection from my thin, good-looking peers.
My parents were loving and supportive of me and my siblings, so I had at least a partial sense of self-worth that didn’t rely on validation from others. Good thing, too; over the years that inkling of self-love has saved me many times from committing emotional and actual hari-kari. And frankly, it helped to prepare me for my eventual career as a freelance writer.
What beginning writer hasn’t daydreamed about what it would be like to receive an acceptance letter from an editor or publisher, or to stand on stage in a beautiful gown or fine suit and accept the Scotiabank Giller Prize? And how many promising writers never find out because they hold back from submitting their work? They suspect that they’re not worthy of being published, and they fear the rejection that might reinforce that idea. By shoving their writing into real and virtual drawers, writers reject themselves before someone else gets the opportunity.
Anyone who has taken my writing workshops and courses or experienced my audio and visual online writing tips knows that I applaud rejection – and I encourage my students to do the same. I’m well aware of how much it hurts to have someone say “No,” but I also know that if you want to dance the dance of published writers, you have to send your stuff out into the cold, hard world. You have to take the risk all by yourself.
Most of you have read or heard my seven words that can eliminate fear of rejection for writers: some of your work will be rejected. Accept that, and the fear dissipates. Rejection is a staple of the writing life. IF you are actively submitting query letters and/or manuscripts, it’s bound to happen.
I’ve sat on both sides of the rejections desk. As an editor, I’ve been delighted to accept queries and articles and offer other writers paying gigs. I’ve also had to hand out rejections because there simply wasn’t space in the publication for the pieces the writers proposed, or because we had run a similar piece a few issues ago, or any number of other reasons that had NOTHING to do with the quality of the writing.
As a writer, you would have to have extrasensory perception to know what is on editors’ desks to ensure an acceptance every time. The best you can do is rely on research and instinct to target your submissions.
Believe it or not, rejections have their benefits. Here are some of them.
- Rejections are proof that you’re being a writer and not just talking about being a writer.
- Rejections are proof that you are marketing your work as a freelancer – handy should you experience a tax audit before you sell any writing.
- Rejections are feedback – someone at the receiving end made some effort to consider your work.
- Rejections represent steps toward acceptances. Learn from good real estate agents, who understand that when following up leads, every “No” is a step toward a “Yes.”
- Rejections toughen you up and inspire you to tap into the self-worth hiding deep within.
I have hundreds of rejection letters to my credit, and I’m proud of them. I’ve also had numerous articles, essays and poems published because I took the risk.
Believe in your ideas and abilities and share your unique voice with the world. When you receive rejections, chalk it up to experience and send the work somewhere else. Invite yourself to the prom and dance the watusi with gusto.